Three keys to unlock leads at a virtual event or trade show

Derse | March 11, 2021

When virtual trade shows became the norm last spring, many event planners weren’t sure what to expect. Businesses that relied on in-person trade shows for lead generation were often surprised and disappointed by their inability to generate meaningful sales leads through virtual conference platforms.

After a year of helping clients navigate this new era of events, we’ve learned a few things about virtual event KPIs and gathering leads while exhibiting at a virtual conference.

Here are three vital lessons and key takeaways to getting leads at your next virtual event:

1.  Visitor Contact Information


While many associations do a great job of providing exhibitors with a list of booth visitors and contact information during a live event, don’t assume they will share these details. It is much harder for associations to track down and provide this type of information after a virtual trade show. Also, event attendees can opt out of inclusion in lists or may provide fake emails to avoid being contacted thereafter.

Key Takeaway

Prior to the show, ask the association what data will be collected from event attendees and what they can and will provide to you after the show. You might not get all the details you desire, but at least you won’t go into the event with unrealistic expectations.

2.  Incentivized Engagement


Attendees want to interact with you and are willing to share their contact information; however, they want something in return. It’s no secret by now that interacting with event attendees and collecting trade show leads is much more difficult at a virtual event. Unlike an in-person, face-to-face event, virtual trade show attendees use the time between sessions to check email, do chores around their house, or grab something to eat rather than walking the exhibit hall. While “at” the show, they behave like website visitors, not event attendees.

Key Takeaway

Offer helpful, valuable information to entice attendees to visit your virtual booth. Include enough free information to answer basic questions and draw attendees in. Then, offer a download with valuable insights upon registration—giving you leads.

Think about how you would engage with attendees at an in-person event. You would have some information posted and available for anyone to read, but you would also have details your salespeople could provide during a more in-depth conversation. That’s the content you should use for your download. You may want to create a landing page outside of the association’s trade show platform to provide this value-added information. You can also use this landing page to create a robust branded experience that includes video content or 360-degree simulated real world views of your product. Plus, this landing page can allow attendees to book meetings with sales, and it can live on even after the conference is over. Need some ideas? See how we helped Flowonix create a custom and scalable experience.

3.  Promotion Strategy


The trade show is just one step in developing a relationship. People crave human connection. Most event planners and attendees are looking forward to the day when in-person trade shows will resume. Until that happens, event planners must remember that a virtual event requires more up-front promotion and follow up.

Key Takeaway

Create a “trade show sandwich.” Promote the event in advance and have a plan for follow up. Most virtual trade shows list the virtual booths in alphabetical order. That’s great if your company name starts with A, but what about if it starts with W? To encourage attendees to scroll down to your listing, you’ll need to promote the benefits and helpful information attendees can get for their effort in advance of the show. In our experience, the most successful virtual experiences are promoted using a combination of email, advertising, and social channels in a coordinated campaign leading up to the show. You can also use the trade show as a jumping off point for an exclusive follow-up event days later. By using the trade show to promote your own virtual event, you reap the benefits of participating in the show and have the opportunity to connect with prospective customers to generate leads.  

Virtual trade shows are a new kind of experiential marketing. Although different from in-person events, they provide significant opportunities to build relationships and generate leads if you approach them with a comprehensive plan. If you’re looking for virtual trade show ideas for your business, get in touch with us. Our visionary experts are here to help.

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